Date: April 07, 2019
Author: Justin Falconer

Augusta provides fairytale ANWA finish

In 20 years time, the golf world will still talk about the final round of the first Augusta National Women’s Amateur.

World No. 1 Jennifer Kupcho’s overnight lead of one stroke ballooned to a winning margin of four as she rammed home her final birdie of the day on Augusta National’s 18th green.

But the two-horse race between the American and her close friend and final round playing partner, Maria Fassi of Mexico, will be remembered as one of the great duels the Augusta National galleries have witnessed.

Wake Forest’s Kupcho showed no fear on Augusta’s back nine on her way to a closing 5-under 67 (the best score of the week) and the first ANWA crown, while fellow 21-year-old Fassi was on her way to a similar score but had to settle for a third consecutive round of 2-under 70.

It was bold golf executed with precision on one of sport’s grandest stages. Saturday at Augusta National was the ultimate showcase of what the best female amateurs are capable of while the world watched in awe.

“I think both of us kind of just wanted to send the message that golf is about having friends, and to be out there with her, we were cheering each other on, and that's kind of how golf is supposed to be,” said Kupcho.

“And [we wanted] to make it look fun. It is fun.

“To make it look that way for everyone watching, I hope it encourages people to pick up a club and go play.”

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On the 2nd tee Kupcho’s buffer over Fassi and the field was two. But with just six holes to play it was the Mexican with a two-shot advantage.

The American found centre fairway on 13 and pulled the trigger from 211 yards with her second, a towering strike settling eight feet above the flag before she guided her eagle try home.

“I would say that's probably one of the best shots I've ever hit,” said Kupcho.

I just knew I needed to make a big move. When I walked up to the shot, I never even thought about laying up.”

A seemingly nerveless Fassi responded immediately with birdie on 14 to snatch back the lead, the Mexican World No. 9 then sinking a six footer of her own for par on 15.

The American’s weapon of choice for finding the green in two was her 3-hybrid once again, Kupcho setting up another eagle try and two putts later she levelled the scores at 8-under.

Barely two metres separated the duo’s pitch marks on the par-3 16th but Kupcho’s ball caught the slope and fed below the traditional Masters Sunday pin.

Fassi’s ball hung on the top shelf, resulting in a blameless three-putt bogey.

Kupcho rammed her 10-footer home to make it back-to-back birdies before the pair halved 17 in pars – meaning Kupcho would have the honour on the 18th tee and a two-stroke lead in her back pocket.

The 21-year-old split the fairway and the battle all-but ended as Fassi found the left fairway trap.

The final hole of one of golf’s most historic weeks ended with a pair of standing ovations, a fifth gained stroke in the final six holes for the eventual champion and a sense that the game’s female amateurs fully belonged on its biggest stage.

“To win at Augusta National, just to get to walk the fairways and walk up 18 with as many fans as there were, it's an experience like none other,” said Kupcho.

“It's an amazing feeling. To have my brother here, to have my parents here, everyone out there supporting me. It was quite a day.”

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Filipino Yuka Saso and Japan’s Yuka Yasuda flew the flag for Asian golf by holding down third on the standings at 2-under for the tournament.

First round co-leader Zoe Campos and fellow American Kaitlyn Papp rounded out the top five at 1-under par, making it just six players to finish in the red numbers for the week.